For many people, going to Maui represents the ultimate in vacation luxury. Perfect weather, pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and breathtaking scenery are just the start of what makes the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands a special place.
Maui offers something for everyone, whether you want to soak up the sun on the sand, go exploring, or discover a bevy of culinary delights that you won’t find at home. You will not regret adding these things to do in Maui off to your bucket list.
1. Drive The Road to Hana
This 65-mile scenic drive truly does live up to its reputation as one of the best day trips in Hawaii. Hugging Maui’s northeastern shore, this road brings you back to the Hawaii that was before tourists and shopping malls.
You’ll cross 59 bridges, 46 of which have only one lane. This trip easily takes a full day because of all of the stops you’ll make.
Most people start their journey in Kahului on the eastern shore early in the morning. Then, you’ll go through lush rainforest and cascading waterfalls, all beckoning you to stop.
The route also includes hairpin turns along with a gravel road surface if you make the entire loop. If you’re unsure about doing the driving yourself, you’ll find plenty of tour companies that will do the job. Also, if you are prone to motion sickness, make sure to bring medication.
Photo opportunities abound. Among the stops are Twin Falls, Upper Waikani Falls, Wailua Falls, Waianapanap State Park, the Bamboo Forest, and Hookipa Beach.
One of the best things to do in Maui on the Road to Hana is stopping at the roadside honor fruit stands where locals leave fresh fruit along with a slot to pay for your purchase. Other stops include stands selling yummy banana bread and Braddah Hutts BBQ.
2. Visit Haleakala National Park
More than a million people visit this 30,000-acre park each year. Most famous as the home to the world’s largest dormant volcano, Haleakala National Park is popular for its sunrise and sunsets at the summit’s very top (more on this below).
However, the park is much more than its summit. If you go in the morning, trek down into the Haleakala crater to see a desert-like landscape that provides unique photo opportunities.
You’ll find three visitor centers here, the Park Headquarters Visitors Center along the road to the summit, the Haleakala Visitor Center near the top of the mountain, and the Kipahulu Visitor Center near the Pipiwai Trail.
Buy a three-day pass to enter the entire park so you can experience its full natural beauty. Alternately, you can take land or helicopter tours.
3. Watch a Haleakala Sunrise or Sunset
Even if you visit the rest of Haleakalā National Park, viewing the sunrise or sense from the observatory is a special experience.
If you choose to go in the morning, you’ll need to book online and awaken at about 3 a.m. to allow time to drive up to the summit. Make sure you bring a jacket and wear warm clothes as temperatures are cold at the very top, which towers nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.
While you revel in the glorious views, learn about how the demigod Maui who, according to Hawaiian legend, lassoed the sun while in the volcano’s crater. While Haleakala Crater sunrise is extremely popular, watching the sunset is also one of the best things to do in Maui.
4. Hike the Pipiwai Trail
Located along the Road to Hana inside Haleakala National Park, Pipiwai Trail is one of Maui’s most popular hiking trails because of its exceptional scenery.
This four-mile trail features lush rainforest, bamboo forests, Makahiku Falls, Waimoku Falls, and ‘Ohe’o Gulch. The trail here is of moderate difficulty and takes three to five hours to complete.
If you’ve already paid for access to Haleakala National Park, you won’t have to pay for entry to the Pipahulu District, where the trail is located.
5. Take a Helicopter Tour
If you think Maui looks spectacular on the ground, imagine what it looks like from the air. Most Maui tours cover Central Maui, West Maui, and Molokai, Hana, and Haleakala and can take you to areas of upcountry Maui that you won’t see via roads or on foot.
Most tours depart from the Kahului Heliport and do not include transportation to or from the helipad.
6. Attend a Luau
Attending a luau is the quintessential Hawaiian experience. At this traditional feast, you will enjoy an incredible amount of food along with Hawaiian music and dance. Some feasts are more traditional than others, so choose yours carefully.
It’s also a good idea to reserve experiences like the popular Old Lahaina Luau in advance as the spots fill quickly during the high tourist season.
Among the traditional Hawaiian foods, you may eat include pua’a kalua (pork roasted in an underground oven, poki ‘ahi (fresh yellowfin tuna with green and Maui onions), and poi. Of course, the fire-throwing and dancing performances are fun to watch as well.
Some of the more popular luaus include the Fest of Lele in Lahaina, Old Lahaina Luau, The Feast at Mokapu, The Myths of Maui, Drums of the Pacific, or Te Au Moana in Wailea.
7. Eat Farm to Table at O’o
For an unforgettable foodie experience, don’t miss O’o Farm, considered the leader in Hawaii’s farm-to-table culture. Getting a taste of local crops is essential to understanding island life along with Maui’s overall identity.
This popular attraction features seasonal menu items, but anytime you visit, you can expect to find an incredible variety of vegetables, herbs, leafy greens, fruit, coffee, and at times, even edible flowers.
Diners can partake in breakfast and lunch, which includes vegetarian offerings as well as chicken and fish. O’o Farm is more than just a foodie experience. The staff is passionate about what they do, providing visitors with a visit that is second to none.
As the farm is located about 3,500 feet above sea level, you’ll get stunning views too. O’o offers tours on weekdays, including a coffee tour with a filling breakfast or a three-course plate lunch tour.
These experiences begin with a walk through rows of vegetables, taking you through various farm areas, explaining the all-natural methods and unique no-till approach used, and finishing with your chosen meal. If you’re a food lover, this experience is a must. (Buy a bag of coffee to bring home as a remembrance of your time here.)
8. Go Whale Watching
November to March is whale season, and I’ve had clients report seeing whales from their oceanfront hotel rooms. Morning boat tours will take you out to prime whale-watching waters, where you can easily see these sea creatures while you view the beautiful Maui scenery from the deck.
Also, check out the Pacific Whale Foundation and Maui Whale Festival, which stage programs throughout the year to educate the public, and includes a film festival, art and craft fair, and webinars.
9. Sunbathe and Swim at Kaanapali Beach
Maui is full of beaches large and small, but if there is one place most visitors go for relaxation and just about everything under the sun, it’s Kaanapali Beach.
This area is perhaps Maui’s most popular strips of coastline, stretching across three miles of gorgeous surf and golden sand. As Maui’s first planned resort area, Kaanapali is home to several notable Maui hotels (such as the Hyatt Regency Maui or the Kaanapali Alii), along with the Whaler’s village open-air shopping center and dozens of restaurants offering just about any cuisine you desire.
Kaanapali sits just north of the whaling town of Lahaina that gives you added shopping and activities that you can do with your kids. You’ll find so many activities in the area that you may be tempted to stay in this part of the island.
10. Book Snorkeling Tours
The gentle slope of Kaanapali Beach makes it an ideal location for beginning snorkelers who want to get a glimpse of Maui’s underwater creatures. However, those who are more advanced or want to go further afield can partake in one of the many snorkeling tours offered.
You’ll see an array of marine life, sea turtles, and colorful fish around the island’s intricate coral reefs. Many hotels will lend snorkel equipment if you haven’t brought your own and will even set up a tour. Most excursions run several hours and provide participants with gear and a meal. Popular spots include Kapalua Bay and Honolua Bay.
Visiting Molokini Crater off Maui’s southwest coast will provide you with the most spectacular snorkeling or scuba diving experience in the area. The crater is a Marine Life Conservation District and remains of a violent volcanic explosion from 200,000 years ago.
It’s worth visiting for its unique shape alone, but its true treasure lies beneath the waters with its abundance of marine life that makes a snorkeling or scuba diving trip there truly worthwhile. We’ve taken an early morning snorkeling tour here from Wailea and highly recommend it.
11. Play a Round or Two of Golf
Greens also come in the sporting variety on Maui as travelers will find plenty of links to put their clubs to good use. In addition, the island offers 14 golf courses, some of which were designed by pro golfers Arnold Palmer and Ben Crenshaw.
Wailea Golf Club is at the top of the list with its Gold, Emerald, and Old Blue courses that offer various terrains and challenges. Other favorites are the Bay and Plantation courses at Kapalua.
These courses boast spectacular views of natural beauty that include the island of Molokai and terrestrial views of the West Maui Mountains and Forest Reserve, and the foothills of Haleakalā.
12. Take Paddleboard or Surf Lessons
Maui is an excellent place to learn how to surf, especially the North Shore, as you’ll find spots for beginning and experience.
It’s also the state’s official sport, which is why you’ll find all kinds of companies offering surfing lessons for beginners, with everything from group instruction to private surf lessons.
Kaanapali Surf School is famous for its work with first-timers, giving novices land instruction first on techniques and safety. You can also check out Maui Surfer Girls. Riding the waves at Kaanapali Beach is an excellent first choice as the water is gentle and consistent.
Hawaiian paddle sports are an alternative for those uncomfortable with surfing. As the sport was invented here, you’ll find lots of outlets that will be willing to teach you the basics.
13. Walk on a Black Sand Beach
Waianapanapa State Park has a beach of volcanic sediment, thus the black sand that graces its shores.
While Waianapanapa means glistening waters in Hawaiian, it’s the black sand beach that attracts everyone, acting as a stark contrast to the bright blue waters and verdant jungle.
As one of the stops on the Road to Hana, the beach may be a quick stop, and you’ll find so much more to explore here, which can make it an all-day activity.
For example, freshwater caves in the park are the site of ancient Hawaiian folklore. Many sites line a coastal hiking trail, including burial grounds, blowholes, sea stacks, and other natural phenomena.
Note that the beach here is not soft but composed of pebbles and rocks, so bring water shoes for your excursion.
14. Relax on Wailea Beach
This beach is another great destination to hang and relax as the shoreline caters to sun-seeking guests of nearby resorts.
Wailea has golden sand lined by palm trees and a paved walkway that connects the shore to hotels, shops, and restaurants. It’s the beach in front of Four Seasons Resort Maui where we prefer to stay.
Because of the resorts, the beach is always kept clean, which is another plus. Go here for relaxation on the southwest coast.
15. Hike Through Iao Valley State Park
This 4,000-acre, 10-mile long park in the island’s central region has verdant vegetation and striking black rock features, the most famous of which is the Iao Needle, which rises more than 1,200 from the valley floor.
You’ll discover history here, too, as Maui’s tribal army lost to King Kamehameha’s forces at the Battle of Kepnaiwai in 1790. The Central Maui park also has several hiking trails, including the popular Iao Needle Lookout Trail and Ethnobotanical Loop.
Make sure you wear waterproof footwear and clothing as the valley is the wettest part of the island.
16. Swim With the Sea Turtles
Olowalu Reef is one of the best locations off Maui, where you can swim with these sea creatures and enjoy Maui ocean activities. It’s a popular snorkeling area, and if you’re lucky, a sea turtle may accompany you.
Several other areas around the island are also great for swimming with turtles. If you’d rather look at them, visit Hookipa Park as these gentle giants regularly hang out there.
Make sure you pay attention to local requirements for interacting with sea turtles.
17. Learn to Hula
During your vacation to Maui, you’ll probably have plenty of chances to catch a hula show during a luau or cultural presentation. If the ancient dance form intrigues you, why not take a few lessons?
This Polynesian dance style, which originated in Hawaii, comes in two forms — Hula Kahiko, the traditional form, and Hula ‘Auana, which features Western influences. A chant or song accompanies all styles of hula along with hand movements.
Hawaiian Hula Company, with locations throughout Maui, provides lessons and the chance to buy costumes that you can take home.
18. See the Nakalele Blow Hole
These lava tubes by the sea are scattered throughout Hawaii, but one of the best is north of Kapalua on the eastern side of Maui.
Getting to the Nakalele Blow Hole takes a bit of doing once you leave your vehicle, as it takes about 15 minutes to descend the mountainside from the parking spot to the sea.
Be sure to wear sturdy shoes instead of sandals or flip-flops as the descent can be a little precarious.
When you get there, don’t stand too close. The force of the water can become dangerous, and you can end up getting sucked into the surf. Water spewed from the blowhole can rise as high as 100 feet.
19. Spend a Beach Day at Makena Beach State Park
If you love undeveloped places, then going to this beach in southern Maui is for you. It’s one of the largest undeveloped beaches on this tropical island.
When you arrive here, you’ll notice a total lack of commercialism as there are not many hotels, restaurants, and shops. For pure beach, this is the place to go.
Don’t worry. You will find food trucks here, so the area is not entirely devoid of creature comforts. The park is divided into two shorelines, Big Beach and Little Beach, both of which have lush tropical vegetation and views of Molokini and Kahoolawe.
A small trail connects the beaches. Note that Big Beach has lifeguards while Little Beach does not and that’s its water conditions can be unpredictable.
Nevertheless, it’s a great locale for bodysurfing and boogie boarding. It’s also an unofficial nude beach, so think twice before taking the kids there.
20. Or, Try Napili Beach
For a quieter, family-friendly experience, crescent-shaped Napili Beach with its calm waters ideal for swimming and Hawaiian paddle sports. Bring your snorkel gear as area reefs have a wide variety of fish and a large sea turtle population.
Parking is limited, so even though the beach may not be crowded, you may have difficulting find a space. Get there early. Pack a lunch too as the area lacks restaurants.
21. Walk the Kapalua Coastal Trail
This trail is an excellent alternative to the more difficult one is Haleakala National Park, as it is paved and almost completely flat.
You’ll wanter through the Kapalua resort community and get a glimpse of Kapalua Bay, Namalu Bay, Oneloa Bay, and Honokahu Bay.
For those that want to go further, head inland to the Mahan Ridge Trail, featuring spectacular views of Molokai. In addition to the easy hike, you’ll also enjoy the black rock formations in between the bays.
Go early as the trail can get crowded. It also doesn’t provide much coverage from the sun, so make sure to bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
20. Indulge in Local Foods
One of the joys of traveling is trying the island foods, and Maui is no exception. Roadside stands and local restaurants in Maui have several favorite culinary experiences that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
No trip to Maui is complete without trying at least some of these foods.
These aren’t your typical kiddie carnival snow cones. Instead, the ice is shaved, not crushed like it is in mainland United States.
One of the best places to partake in shaved ice is Ululani’s Shave Ice Shop, making this local delicacy with purified water, cane sugar, and purées made in-house.
Some of the more popular flavors include Haleakala made with coconut, leche, and sweetened condensed milk; No Ka Oi made with mango, coconut and passion fruit; mango and guava with passion orange; or pineapple with coconut and lime.
In all, you’ll have a choice of more than 50 flavors, along with special toppings that include li hing mui powder or coconut cream. Ululani’s has locations all over the island but be prepared to wait as going here is one of the best things to do in Maui, whether you’re a tourist or a local.
If you are some who has to have your Morning Joe, spend an hour or so savoring MauiGrown Coffee grown on the Kaanapali Coffee Farms.
Get a cup of their tasty coffee at the company store in Lahaina. You’ll get the opportunity to try various local roasts and take home a bag of fresh beans as well.
Eat Kalua Pig
Even if you don’t go to a luau, plenty of restaurants offer Kalua pig, the traditional underground oven technique that produces tender and tasty meat. Visit Flatbread Company in Paia that sells a popular flatbread called Mopsey Kalua Pork made with free-range pork shoulder.
Try Spam Musubi
The canned meat spam is possibly more popular here than anywhere else in the world. Try a snack of Spam Musubi, which is a slice of meat wrapped in dried seaweed.
You can find it almost anywhere, at delis, grocery stores, roadside stands, and more. It’s cheap too!
Try Traditional Poke
This native dish is made of diced raw fish prepared with Maui onions, roasted candlenut, limu, green onions, and soy sauce or sesame oil. It’s often served in a bowl.
Find some of the best at Takamiya Market and Eskimo Candy Seafood Market and Café.
Go Crazy With Loco Moco
This delicious local comfort food is made with a fried burger patty and gravy place on top of rice. A fried egg tops the entire creation. Find this tasty creation at Kihei Caffe or Nalu’s South Shore Grill.
What are your favorite things to do in Maui?
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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